What We Know About the Attack on Salman Rushdie

Author was stabbed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution in New York state
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2022 2:32 PM CDT
What We Know About the Attack on Salman Rushdie
Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., about 75 miles south of Buffalo.   (AP Photo/Joshua Goodman)

(Newser) – Author Salman Rushdie was undergoing surgery Friday after being stabbed at the Chautauqua Institution in New York state. The suspected assailant is in custody, but police have not identified him or spoken of a motive. "We can think of no comparable incident of a public attack on a literary writer on American soil," said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America in a statement, per CNN. Rushdie famously had a fatwa calling for his death issued against him in the late 1980s because his writing was perceived as blasphemous to Islam. Coverage:

  • Assault: The 75-year-old Rushdie was at the institution to deliver a lecture, and the New York Times reports that he had just sat down on stage and was being introduced about 11am when a lone attacker rushed the stage. “I could just see his fists sort of pounding on Salman,” one witness tells the newspaper. An AP reporter at the event said the assailant either punched or stabbed Rushdie 10 or 15 times. Police say Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and taken by helicopter to a hospital. An event moderator on stage suffered what was described as a minor head injury.
  • Attacker: Witnesses say the male assailant was clad in black and moved quickly to get to Rushdie. Bystanders then rushed to help the author and to subdue the attacker, and a state trooper took the assailant into custody. Witness Linda Abrams tells the Times of the attacker: “It took like five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing. He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”
  • Condition: The severity of Rushdie's injuries were unclear. His agent, Andrew Wiley, said Rushdie was in surgery Friday afternoon, but had no further details. A doctor who helped Rushdie at the scene, Dr. Martin Haskell, said the wounds were "serious but survivable."

  • Security: Eyewitness accounts says it was lax, giving the attacker easy access to Rushdie. “It’s very open, it’s very accessible, it’s a very relaxed environment,” 20-year-old usher Kyle Doeshuk tells the Times. “In my opinion something like this was just waiting to happen.” Members of the audience say no security checks or metal detectors were in place for those entering the venue, per CNN and the Washington Post.
  • Fatwa: After the 1988 publication of Rushdie's fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and issued a fatwa calling for his death. Though the Iranian government said it would no longer enforce the fatwa in 1998, it remains in effect, with a reported bounty of about $3 million.
  • His fears: Rushdie, a native of India, wrote a memoir about the nine years or so he spent in hiding under the protection of the British government. It was titled Joseph Anton, after the pseudonym he used. "The only way you can defeat (fear) is by deciding not to be afraid,” he said in a 2012 speech about terrorism in New York.
(Read more Salman Rushdie stories.)

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